'Dreams' Is A Powerful Tool to Create Anything and Own Nothing

Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ywyvvv/dreams-is-powerful-tool-to-create-anything-and-own-nothing

Embedded in a framework of capitalist social relations, even an essentially communist project like ‘Dreams’ can only leave a bitter taste. Instead of being the intended oasis of creative freedom, allowing people to truly develop and express themselves as individuals and together, it ends up hitting a brick wall and is only capable of cashing in on the hollow neoliberal ideological promises of the last decades, we are all so familiar with. There needs to be a whole lot of societal change before something like ‘Dreams’ is able to unfold itself and flourish.

I’m very excited for what Dreams will be as a creative platform. I plan to invest a lot of time in it myself. But ultimately, despite MM’s sincerity, Cameron is right: the need for profit renders the full realization of the dream impossible.

Not to denigrate the suite that MM have put together here, but I don’t see it as a true-blue engine to make anything that exists out of the LittleBigPlanet mold of “fleeting novelties in short-form expression”.

I think it’ll be more useful as a sampling of game design in abstract. A way for people to see if the raw experience of creativity is worth getting over the learning hurdles of full-bodied toolsets like Unity, GameMaker, and UE4.

I would absolutely prefer if creators had a way to pull their projects off of the client, of course.

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Has anyone read the T&C’s or got a link to them? No-one seems to be really sure what the IP ownership situation is. Like do Sony auto-own your creations or do creators retain some rights over them?

I’m in agreement with miscu. I’m thinking even if the stuff in Dreams is ultimately only able to be properly experienced in Dreams, I can still see some value coming from the creative process.

I can imagine Dreams being used as a (relatively) cheap and less intimidating way of testing the waters and seeing if something like animation or level design interests you. Or I can imagine the scenario where after creating something, people are inspired to then go outside of Dreams and hone that skill, refine their craft, learn some other tool, etc.


I firmly believe Dreams can be a space to showcase game design skill and act as a part of a portfolio.

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Good article, but I don’t know that all the imitative games really means as much as Cameron’s drawing it out to mean, with the snake eating its own tail and all. Imitation is how people learn. It makes sense for the majority of creations to mimic what people know. Originality takes longer, and the supposed lack of it is more reflective of all creative spaces than, like, a unique disease of the gaming mind.


Yeah this is one of the major things I’d like to push back on, because recreation is such a vital part of learning an art form, and has been for…ever?

Plus, remixing is part of Dreams’s DNA, taking something someone else made and recontextualizing it or changing it is a specific act they want players to do (creators give their consent to have their stuff remixed, and every creation contains a genealogy of where its components came from).

The fact that I don’t truly own the stuff I’ve created in dreams is complicated to me, because I think that that ownership and portability is extremely important, but the restricted nature of it has made me feel free to create for creations sake, and let it be self contained and self fulfilling. I also think that none of this would be lost if assets created in dreams were able to be were able to be exported and dreams could be a part of a larger whole. It has just made me see the creation process in a different way.

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I didn’t know about this aspect of the platform. That’s simultaneously a cool feature, but also something that further complicates the idea of being able to own anything created via these tools.

We saw this conflict play out with paid Skyrim mods a few years back. It’s not uncommon to see mods, even very popular and highly rated ones, borrow code or assets from others to serve as a foundation for their project.

Not as much of a problem in a landscape of freeware, but poses a huge conflict of interest once a mod storefront comes into the picture.

It’s too early for the part of this article that is disappointed about people using Dreams so far to recreate games or game types. I’m tired of hearing standalone “make something new” statements without acknowledgment of how difficult that is or examples of existing new things. But there are some other problems in the context of Dreams:

  • Recreating things is the way you learn to use new tools. I do it all the time in music. It’s a much easier and smarter way to apply your time when learning.
  • The tools are brand-new (not even fully released!) and everyone is learning them. No one is a 10-year Dreams master pushing forward the form.
  • I would bet that most of the people using Dreams so far are using art, animation, programming, game design and music tools for the first time.

I would personally rather people use Dreams as a springboard to try out game development, see what part of it they like best and then go elsewhere where they can make money. Ever since Dreams was revealed as a very impressive creation engine, I’ve been asking the question “but can I sell my game” every time it comes up, and sadly, I finally have the disappointing answer.


I wonder if exporting tools or some kind of monetization (for creators) is still a possibility in the future. While it’s a different sort of problem, the fact that they pulled off this truly remarkable creation suite makes me think that if they’re allowed to, they could come up with these types of systems as well.

As it stands though, I’m pretty much with you - I hope this becomes an inspiration for more people, and can at least fulfill a role as a beautiful sketchbook for creative people.

If Dreams becomes big enough, it’s possible that they might find some way to expand the rights creators have or turn it into an exporting engine. I bet it’s not a time/money investment they wanted to make right out of the gate before they knew if people would actually latch onto the thing.

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Has there been any information on how they will handle the archiving of things that are made in Dreams?

Right now, all I can picture are the articles that are going to be written a few years from now where people look back at all the interesting things they’ve discovered in Dreams and that are now lost forever because the servers were shut down.

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I should have been more clear in the essay: I am not disappointed that people are using Dreams to replicate what they enjoy, because that’s clearly how one practices/iterates/figures out what one wants to make. I do that all the time, and I think anyone working in a creative medium does it. And, as I say, this is actually a major part of the games industry as well.

When I wrote “It’s a culture eating its own tail, but it isn’t a problem with the players themselves.” I should probably have written “the designers” or “creators.” And when I talk about social media in the grafs that follow, what I am trying to get at is that Dreams even commodifies your practice. Your ability to get better is operating within a platform that is ultimately going to wring as much value as it can out of all versions of your work by drawing eyeballs and iterative, cited labor that can then go into other people’s work.

I should have been a little more surgical in that part of the essay, and I appreciate the comments and friction because I agree with you.